Re-teaching the teachers: The case of Japan's english language teachers' professional development

Year: 2014

Author: Marie Rose, Escalada, Dennis, Alonzo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In response to the 2004 and 2005 TOEFL results that put Japan second lowest amongst the Asian countries, and to the need to prepare Japanese workforce for international engagement, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) introduced in 2011 the mandatory English education in years 5 and 6 as a national strategy to close the identified language gap. In this program, primary school teachers teach one English lesson per week. Within two years of implementation, program officers and teachers have dealt a considerable number of issues revolving around teachers' competence. Particularly, teachers have been struggling to teach English language because they do not have formal training in language teaching, and there were those who had never taken any English subject during their pre-service training (MEXT, 2006). To address this issue, the government had employed expatriate teachers who would have served as teaching assistants. However, this initiative has created more problems than resolving the issue as these expat teachers have completely taken over the responsibilities and pushing aside the Japanese teachers. Drawing on from the lessons gained from earlier implementation and considering the interface between the context of Japan and EFL teaching (Cummins, 1979:1983:1996; Krashen, 1985; de Bot, 2005; Larsen-Freeman, 2006; Gibbons, 2009), this paper reports on the implementation of a more responsive teacher training program, which start from individualised mentoring approach and eventually bringing all these teachers together to form a community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) aimed at helping Japanese teachers acquire a high level of knowledge and skills in language teaching. This paper foregrounds the role of modelling, collegiality and collaboration (Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005) and scaffolding (Berk & Winsler, 1995) in teacher training with extensive use of feedback (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). The presentation focuses on the lessons learned, policy implications and research areas to better support EFL teachers in Japan.